U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced the 2013-2014 Green Ribbon School award winners on Earth Day, April 22, 2014. Santa Fe Public School’s Amy Biehl Community School was the only school from New Mexico to be recognized.
The annual award recognizes public schools across the United States that exemplify the Department of Education’s three pillars: 1) Reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) Improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and 3) Providing effective environmental and sustainability literacy, incorporating STEM, civic skills and green career pathways.
Amy Biehl was designed by Greer Stafford/SJCF Architecture with mechanical & electrical engineering design by Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers, civil engineering by Bohannan Huston, structural engineering by Chavez Grieves, and landscape architecture by Design Office.
From its inception, the school was designed to save energy, celebrate the natural environment, and provide an inspirational learning environment.
“The school building itself was envisioned as a teaching tool for educating students about sustainability and environmental stewardship, via the integration of the building architecture with the school’s curriculum,” says Christopher Rasmussen AIA, the architect who led the school’s design efforts.
Outdoor learning classrooms – including a vegetable garden and bird sanctuary — provide students with the opportunity to engage with the natural environment. Students can see the building’s real-time energy and water use statistics from a dashboard in the lobby and from a public website. A Green Guide brochure provides students and visitors with a self-guided tour of all the school’s energy-efficient and sustainable design features.
Nearly one third of the energy the school uses is generated on site by a ground-source (geothermal) heat pump system and supplemented by a 74kw photo voltaic solar array.
Natural daylighting is abundant throughout, integrated into all classrooms, as well as the building’s architectural form. Artificial lights are automatically dimmed as natural light increases, which in turn reduces the demand for cooling.
Rainfall is collected into four 1,400 gallon cisterns and later used to water the students’ community vegetable garden. A graywater system reclaims wastewater back to the community wastewater treatment plant.
In recognition of its sustainable design, the school received LEED Gold Certification in 2013 and is also an EPA EnergyStar certified facility.
Amy Biehl and this year’s other Green Ribbon Schools honorees will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington D. C. on July 22, 2014.